Update from Kane Brides (WWT)
A year certainly does come around quickly! As I type, I am sat at London’s Heathrow with a team of people ready to fly out to China to continue working on Spoon-billed Sandpipers. In fact, we are not the only people getting ready for travel. The Spoon-billed Sandpiper work has long been a collaborative project with many people across the world involved in the conservation of this special little bird. Therefore, from the UK I am joining Nigel Clark (BTO), Jacquie Clark, Rhys Green, Ewan Weston, Guy Anderson (RSPB), Andy Evans (RSPB), James Phillips (Natural England) and Connor Walsh (WWT). Whilst we are preparing for travel, our colleagues David Melville (New Zealand), Katherine Leung (Hong Kong) and Tom Clark (Australia) are also making their way to China. Tomorrow we will all meet in Jiangsu province where we are very much looking forward to meeting with Professor Chang and his team of students from the Nanjing Normal University to kick-start the 2019 autumn fieldwork.
Therefore, this year we have a larger team and we are hoping to achieve several aims during the course of our fieldwork. It is likely that we will split ourselves in to two teams, a catching team and a scan-sampling team. As always, a major focus of these fieldtrips is to try to catch as many Spoon-billed Sandpipers as possible in the hope that we increase the colour-marked population that in turn will help us learn more about the movements and survival of the species. This year we are excited to be in a position to hopefully deploy five more GPS satellite transmitters, the smallest of their type! Our knowledge of where and when Spoon-billed Sandpipers move from and to along the east coast of Asia has always been limited. This has hampered our ability to identify and protect key areas for them. These amazing tags will contribute in revealing more about the secrets of the Spoony!
Whilst we are out catching and targeting Spoon-billed Sandpipers, we will also catch other species of shorebirds that share these intertidal habitats. Therefore, we are in a position to colour-mark several different species of waders, including the endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank. By colour marking other species, we will be contributing to increasing knowledge of shorebirds using the important East Asian-Australasian Flyway.
The other aspect of the fieldwork programme will be the continuation of scan sampling. By scanning through flocks of waders and taking careful note on whether any Spoonies we see are colour-marked along with noting the age and plumage characterises of each individual, will enable us to produce population estimates for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Scan sampling will also enable us to number crunch and produce local population estimates for several sites in the Jiangsu area. During the 2017 and 2018 fieldtrips, together with Professor Chang and his team, the group concentrated on collecting data at Tiaozini, which provided a closed-population estimate of adult Spoonies that moulted at Tiaozini (estimated at 220 birds, 40% of the world population!). This work identified the importance of Tiaozini for Spoonies and the need for added protection at this site. We are hoping to repeat this work not only at Tiaozini but also at other key sites for the species along the Jiangsu coast. As always many thanks go to Leica for suitably kitting out our team with optics in order to undertake this important work.
More updates will follow over the course of the expedition as we update you with the latest on our fieldwork programme, for now we have a plane to catch!